Visit the GSD Through Virtual Gund Hall

The GSD’s Fabrication Lab brought Gund Hall to the 3D virtual world, with Virtual Gund Hall, an experience created using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, a real-time 3D tool used to create cutting-edge content, immersive virtual worlds, and immersive experiences.

Virtual gund entrance

During the Covid-19 pandemic, GSD students, faculty, and staff learned and worked virtually for nearly a year and a half. During this time, the GSD’s Fabrication Lab brought Gund Hall to the 3D virtual world with Virtual Gund Hall. Digital Fabrication Analyst Christopher Hansen and a team of students designed the immersive GSD campus experience, which enables viewers to visit and engage with Gund Hall and the GSD’s surrounding campus and buildings. The team hopes “that this project serves as both a gift and a resource for the GSD community, wherever you may be in the world.” Since its launch, the site has gained an international following of prospective students and Gund Hall aficionados.

Virtual Gund Hall provides a chance for alumni to explore a collection of spaces and things that help make the GSD unique, relive their days in the now-vacant trays, and view an exhibit on architect Josep Lluís Sert in the Druker Design Gallery. Guests can experience Piper Auditorium with its gold curtain, glowing audience, and sparkly Sarah M. Whiting, GSD Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture. 3D scanning of Dean Whiting was not possible with social distancing guidelines in place, so she was resourcefully modeled after publicly available images. With her glittery persona, the creators added a layer of abstractness that aligns with their interpretation of the Gund Hall scene. Also, visitors can look out for the glowing orange cat that represents Remy, the Humanities Cat, who is known for roaming the Harvard campus and his popular visits to the GSD.

Unreal Engine is like a big sandbox, as it accepts content from various platforms. We imported 3D models, animations, images, audio recordings, and 3D scans into the platform to create this virtual scene.

Christopher Hansen Digital Fabrication Analyst, GSD FabLab

Virtual Gund Hall was created using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, a real-time 3D tool used to create cutting-edge content, immersive virtual worlds, and immersive experiences. Hansen received an Epic MegaGrant from Epic Games which was used to fund the initial phase of the project. According to Hansen, “Unreal Engine is like a big sandbox, as it accepts content from various platforms. We imported 3D models, animations, images, audio recordings, and 3D scans into the platform to create this virtual scene.” The development was easier than anticipated, with the whole project taking about three months. Four students worked with Hansen: Mira Xu MDes ’22, Angela Sniezynski MArch ’21, Jon Gregurick March ’21, and Emily Majors MArch ’23, with additional support for content coming from the Loeb Library, the GSD’s Innovation Task Force, Student Services, Kirkland Gallery, and other GSD researchers, faculty, and students.

The project showcases the unique ways that real-time 3D enables engaging experiences. It has been our pleasure to support the GSD’s Fabrication Lab with an Epic MegaGrant, and we’re excited to see them explore a world of new possibilities on their Unreal Engine journey.

Chris Kavcsak Epic MegaGrants and Strategy, Epic Games

“We’re thrilled to see Gund Hall reimagined in a virtual setting with Unreal Engine in a way that has left a lasting impression on the students and alumni who’ve called the campus home, as well as numerous prospective students across the globe,” said Chris Kavcsak, Senior Manager, Epic MegaGrants and Strategy, Epic Games. “The project showcases the unique ways that real-time 3D enables engaging experiences. It has been our pleasure to support the GSD’s Fabrication Lab with an Epic MegaGrant, and we’re excited to see them explore a world of new possibilities on their Unreal Engine journey.”

Based on the success of using the Unreal Engine to create the Virtual Gund Hall experience, the GSD hopes to expand the use of the tool.

image of virtual chairs
In the virtual classroom, Stubbins was converted into a gallery for the final project in the course “Materials,” taught by Jonathan Grinham DDes ’17, Lecturer in Architecture. The final assignment provided students with a glimpse into the critical societal issues around building materials. Instead of building physical stools as in past years, the students designed chairs with the furniture company Steelcase.